The Squeeze

Brainfood for lush living

5 Immune Boosting Nutrients You Need Now

With cold and flu season upon us it’s about time you get your immune system in fighting shape.  By now you know to stay cold-free this winter you should be focused on getting enough sleep, exercising, washing your hands and drinking plenty of fluids but is your diet in check?  

A well balanced diet can ensure your immune system is working efficiently all winter long. Among other nutrients, vitamin D, zinc, iron, prebiotic fiber and protein play important roles in keeping us healthy.  Go beyond the bushels of oranges and read on to make sure you’re getting enough of these powerhouse nutrients every day.

Vitamin D 

The sunshine vitamin plays a key role in immune responses and is linked to a decreased susceptibility to infection when eaten in sufficient quantities.  Eat up!

Find it in food: Fatty fish like salmon and tuna, eggs, mushrooms exposed to UV light prior to harvest and vitamin D fortified foods like yogurt, orange juice, milk, soy milk and almond milk.

Zinc

This mineral boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits while working to keep you cold and flu free.  Eating enough zinc-rich foods helps your body build immune system first responder cells that not only fight infection themselves but also help recruit extra infection fighters to keep us well.

Find it in food: Soybeans, peanuts, almonds, whole wheat, potatoes and pumpkin seeds.

Iron

Despite being needed in such small quantities, iron deficiency is as common as Bean Boots in New England.  The mineral has numerous functions including getting oxygen to every cell in our bodies.  When iron is shortchanged your cells don’t get enough oxygen from your blood leaving you and your immune system fatigued and weak, more vulnerable to getting sick.

Find it in food:  Spinach, kale, brown rice, eggs, lentils, beef and poultry.  Animal sources of iron are more readily absorbed by the body than plant sources.  For best absorption, consume iron with vitamin C rich foods like red bell peppers and oranges.  

Prebiotic Fiber

At this point you are probably a pro at downing your kimchi, kombucha, yogurt and other favorite fermented foods for their probiotic benefits but are you taking care of and feeding those friendly bacteria once you consume them?  Prebiotic fiber feeds these probiotics keeping our microbiome healthy and working as a first line of defense against cold and flu germs in our gut.  

Find it in food: Bananas, strawberries, whole grains, honey, onions and garlic.   

Protein

Responsible for numerous functions, this macronutrient is essential for providing energy but also amino acid building blocks for nearly every cell in your body.  Your immune system depends on a group of proteins called antibodies that act as a first line of defense.  These antibodies attach to foreign viruses and bacteria in your body and then work with other proteins to inactivate and destroy them.

Find it in food: Beans, nuts, seeds, yogurt, milk, soy products like whole edamame, tempeh, tofu and milk, whole grains, beef, seafood, poultry and found in smaller quantities in vegetables.  

Hillary Pride

Hillary Pride

Hillary Pride RD, LD is a registered dietitian in Portland, Maine. Passionate about personally leading a healthy and active lifestyle, Hillary enjoys encouraging others to pursue the same while fostering positive relationships around food and fitness. Hillary loves any time spent on the water especially sailing and when not testing recipes and helping others cultivate healthy habits can often be found paddling Southern Maine rivers, trying to not to fall off her surfboard or running to the gym to stay fit for an active life.

Follow Hillary